Monmon: End of the year.. Shit flies fast.
Bibliophilia or bibliophilism. A love for books. A bibliophile is a person who loves reading books. In common terms, a bookworm. This passion for books goes beyond a hobby as it is a way of life for a bibliophile. These readers find no satisfaction in reading electronic books as they must hold, feel, smell and see the book in their hands. A book lover.
Bibliomania. A symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. An obsession for books. A bibliomaniac is a person so obsessed with books that they collect and hoard books they find appealing. This obsession always comes at the cost of social relations and health. They will close themselves away from society and surround themselves with books. A book maniac.
Bibliophilia and bibliomania are completely separate from each other. One is a personal preference while the other is a harmful obsession. Why the info dump? Nothing important in particular. Just trivia relevant to this recommendation. This is about a bibliomaniac who got isekai’ed and her journey towards making and reading books in another world. This is Honzuki no Gekokujou.
Motosu Urano is a lover of books. She leads a fulfilling life reading, surrounded by her beloved books. However, one day she had an accident and got crushed by her books. As her life fades away, she prayed to God to let her read books in her next life.
Her next thoughts are accompanied by a girl’s who was in great pain. A hellish fever and pain all over her body, the girl is suffering. One in mind, Motosu shared the same pain. Then the girl’s voice grew fainter and fainter until..
Trying to make sense of the situation, Motosu recalled that she had died from an accident in her home. A bibliomaniac getting crushed by her books. An ironic death. As she slowly tskes in her situation, a woman with green hair entered the room. The woman called her Main and in a moment, a flood of memories swept over her mind. It is then she realized. She had died as Motosu Urano in her previous world and became Main in this one.
As she looks around her house, she learns many things about this world. She has parents and an older sister and they all have different colored hair. The family seems to be in the peasant class. She also learns more about herself and the very frail body she possesses. And worst of all, there are no books in sight.
However, all is not lost. Although there are no books in the house, it may be a different story for the world outside. Hitching a ride on her mother’s back, Main begins to explore the world outside. And what a world… It is reminiscent of old European towns, ones that are far from an industrial era. And in line with the time, literary in the society is very poor. Signs are all pictures but at least numbers stuck around on market price boards. And then, as if by fate..
A book! God has not forsaken her yet! Main is overjoyed at the sight and wishes to see the book. But much to her dismay, she is forbidden to touch it as the book is very expensive and exclusive only to rich nobles. This is because a lot of effort is put into making a book in an era before industrial made materials and printing technology. Many materials are required to make a book; like leather for the pages and book cover and ink to write. Not only that, a person of veritable knowledge and reputation have to be hired to write the book. A lot of stuff to take account for.
Lamenting at her fate of being born in the peasant class, she made a resolve. If she can’t read those books, she can make the books herself! Armed with the knowledge she had from Earth, she will create her own books with methods and tools made by her own hand. Thus, Main’s quest to make her own book begins!
So is this one of those isekai series? The one where the MC will breeze through life with ease using their own modern knowledge as well as an overpowered skill blessed by God? Hmmm.. No. Honzuki no Gekokujou takes on a more realistic path while lightly threading on the path of fantasy. This manga has a lot of quirks. Quite niche ones in fact, so this manga might take a little effort to get into as it has a significant adjustment curve.
Honzuki no Gekokujou follows the common isekai theme of ‘knowledge is power and modern knowledge in medieval times is over powered’. Main has amassed quite a boon of knowledge from her book obsession and it has been an invaluable tool in her quest to make a book. The manga takes a more mature turn as Main is taught the importance of her modern knowledge and how it can shake up people’ lives and affect the economy. She is forced to learn to be more reserved in revealing her modern knowledge and be wary of people seeking to exploit her.
As the plot centers around Main, most of the story consists of her interactions with the world and the people around her. So more focus is put into character interactions rather than world building and setting. The bulk of Main’s adventure will be spent in the city she lives in. There is no real sense of familiarity of the environment as the scenes just jumps from location to location based on the character’s perspective. Rarely do I see an establishing shot of a location or scenery. Usually the background consists of unique props and details to indicate the location of a scene.
In spite of the fantasy isekai theme, Honzuki no Gekokujou has kept some realism in its setting. One realistic part of note is the way work and business is conducted. Work and business require an incredible amount of work, time and experience. Those who had been working for many years certainly showed their proficiency and experience in their work. Guards have detailed procedures in letting in any visitors to the city and secretaries prepare paperwork for passage as well as welcome any travelling noble. Merchants have expansive knowledge about the market, politics and wisdom in securing the best trades and travel routes.
While this manga may lean more towards realism, a good amount of fantasy has been weaved in as well. Aside from various natural hair colors, there are quite a few fantastic things in Main’s world. Magic exists but it is very rarely used. Magic seems to be exclusive for the noble class but magic tools can be made for use by nobles, merchants and administrators. So because Main is in the lower class of society, magic will be a rare occurrence in the story.
Aside from magic, there are strange phenomena that are normal to the residents of this world. For example, there is a fruit called paru which has sweet juice and it grows on a VERY strange tree. The tree can only be found on a clear day in the morning and the fruit has to be harvested by warming the branch with one’s bare hands to soften the branch enough to break it. Knives cannot cut it and the branches cannot be warmed with fire because the tree has a mysterious power that puts it out. ..Wat.
New language, magic and strange flora and fauna.A world completely alien from Motosu Urano’s world. Fortunately, the treasure trove of knowledge proved useful and invaluable to Main and her quest to create a book. And since Main is the only one who knows modern production methods, she can be considered a pioneer of technology. And as all pioneers, she will face the same unfair trial. Fail and fail and fail again. Whether it is her weak constitution, the politics and economy of her surroundings and just plain rotten luck, Main will fail many times in her book creation quest. But fret not, Main’s love for books is strong but her will and perseverance is stronger.
Fortunately, not all her endeavors are foiled. Her modern knowledge does help her in various ways, especially in improving her relationship with her friends and family. Main’s own unique contributions showed them that she is more than the weak girl they initially thought her to be. Furthermore, her friends and family in turn gives Main something other than her books to love.
And now, let’s talk about the cons in the manga. Given that the manga is entirely focused on Main, naturally an undesirable part will stem from her. Main has character traits that might be infuriating to some. Main, or specifically, Motosu Urano was a bibliomaniac who is withdrawn and obsessive about books. Her obsession for books in a medieval era world where books are scarce causes a lot of stress for her. Her attitude will sour when she laments in frustration about the lack of books in her possession. Many readers were turned off, stating that her entitlement is annoying.
Main’s pursuit of book is very.. passionate. Even to a point that endangers her health given her weak constitution. And further into the story, Main’s obsession will frequently drive her to do nonsensical things in pursuit of a book. She consistently gets taken advantage of and often lured into risky situations by a promise of a book. Seeing her willingly walk into these difficult situations will plague some readers with anger and frustration that is downright insufferable.
However, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that Main’s undesirable traits compliment the overall theme of the story. This is a story about a bibliomaniac trying to make a place for her in a world that is alien to her. So of course Main, with a soul of a bibliomaniac, will have all the traits of a bibliomaniac, undesirable ones included. This story gives a detailed look at how a bibliomaniac will behave and how her obsession can cause detriment to her health and relationships. As such, readers can learn about the nature of bibliomaniacs and empathize with their situation. In fact, readers who initially dislike Main’s entitled attitude have come around and complimented on how interesting Main’s character has made the story. So in short, if you give bibliomaniac Main a chance, she will grow on you.
This is a good isekai series to get into. It’s missing the adventurous and expansive themes of a fantasy as more down to earth and more character centric. Definitely a slow read. For those who likes elements of simple production and business, Main will entertain you. This series will be a slow paced one but entertaining nonetheless. But if you’re looking for a more digestible format, then..
Unlike the manga, the anime is a completely different presentation of the series. The quality of the character design is a noticeable step down from the art quality of the manga. Nonetheless, it is still good to look at. And what the anime lacks in character design, it makes up for in everything else. For starters, the world building is absolutely superb.
The background is beautifully drawn and very detailed. But that is not only that. A whole lot of research has been done into making the background. So in contrast to the manga, the environment setting is much more robust in the anime. The culture of the world Main resides in, the separation of economic classes, and the natural world outside the city. Minor details like furniture and tools gives subtle clue in the sort of place the scene plays in.
Most of the story revolves around Main as she interacts with the world around her. Noticeable changes are made to compliment Main’s perspective. Some scenes are shot with a fish eye lens to give a feeling of sheer size to compliment Main’s short view of the world. This give the viewers some sense of Main’s small size and help them empathize with her struggles and short comings.
And of course, the presentation doesn’t end there. Aside from story setting and perspective, the exposition is well executed as well. As any veteran of storytelling knows, exposition can make or break a story. So it is a treat to some conscious effort done to this anime. Honzuki no Gekokujou is the sort of anime that requires a lot of exposition, especially for the daily life in a medieval era. Because we are in the age of computers and internet, viewers might not understand the perspective of various aspects in the medieval setting of the anime.
The exposition is usually done naturally between conversation or as Main’s thoughts to herself. For those exposition that is hard to fit in, the scene transitions into a different art style and lays out the information with the aid or realistic pictures. While it can break away from the natural flow of the story, it is a necessary compromise to enlighten the viewers on finer points in the setting.
Lastly, there is one more exposition presentation done in the anime. Text is superimposed in the corner of the screen explaining the situation. For me it is a bit of a surprise for me since the information it confers seems to be a bit redundant. However, it might be useful to viewers who are less informed about the situation.
While the presentation of exposition is given some praise, some leave a lot to be desired. While those particular scenes are not exactly exposition, the explain Main’s perspective towards a situation. The scene involves a chibi version of Main who exaggerates her expressions and feelings. This dramatic shift from tone is really jarring and I find it unpleasant to watch. It would have been much better if the anime took a more subtler approach where the scenes are instead just voiced as thoughts in Main’s head as she analyzes the situation. Nonetheless, I figured these scenes are an effort to push Main as a cute character to viewers who are susceptible to cute chibi characters. Where there is demand, there would be a price.
Exposition and presentation aside, the anime goes through the content relatively quickly. Compared to the manga, the anime is poised to overtake it. Nonetheless, the pace isn’t rushed and no shortcuts in the story can be discerned. It is honestly a treat to see Main take on the monumental task of making her prized book while conducting cutthroat business and development.
Honzuki no Gekokujou is quite a niche story in a niche genre. Yet it explores medieval production skills and presents medieval trade and culture as accurate as it can. Coupled with an introverted bibliomaniac who wishes to relive her book obsession it is a good experience. Follow Main and learn about old production techniques as well peer into the mind of a girl obsessed with books.
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Also be sure to check out Q-ichi’s web novel R.A.M.!